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The “Fat Burning” Zone Does Not Exist

April 21, 2010

Walk into any gym and you are guaranteed to see many people jogging, walking, cycling, etc. at the same low to medium cadence for their entire 60-minute workout.  Why?  Because some of them still believe in the “Fat Burning” Zone- the long, slow, continuous aerobic workout that allows you to burn fat, rather than carbohydrates for fuel.  Wrong.

Body fat reduction can only take place when the calories consumed are less than the calories burned.  ~Law of Thermodynamics

Oxygen allows fat and glucose (carbohydrates) to be “burned” as fuel.  The waste products of this process are carbon dioxide and water.  The amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide exchanged in the lungs typically is the same amount that is used and released by the body.  Therefore, expended calories can be measured indirectly using this method.  A metabolic analyzer is used to detect a person’s respiratory exchange ratio (RER).  RER is the ratio of carbon dioxide produced to the volume of oxygen consumed.

Fat and carbohydrates use different amounts of oxygen in order to utilize them as fuel.  In fact, research has shown that the only time the body burns 100% fat is when it is at complete rest (RER= .71).  So even though the amount of fat being burned is at the max, the amount of calories burned is minimal, which would make losing weight a challenge.

Now the question is:  How do you maximize caloric output?

Maximize caloric expenditure during and after your workout by increasing your Excess Post Oxygen Consumption or EPOC.  EPOC is the elevation of the body’s metabolism after exercise.  Higher intensity exercises such as running intervals for 30 minutes, and/or lifting weights that are challenging, yet doable are good ways to increase caloric expenditure and EPOC.

Be Well!


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